We all want our dogs to be as healthy as possible. With all of the pet services offered these days, keeping your dog mentally and physically fit doesn't have to be as hard as teaching him new tricks. How do you ensure your dog's first walker is "the one"? How do you deal with handing the leash over to a stranger? After you've done your research and decided on a potential candidate, here are some tips to helping you feel at ease and making sure they're a good fit for Fido:
Before you meet:
- Relax and take a deep breath. This is your baby. Understood. The dog walker is there to help! They wouldn't be in this business if they didn't love dogs.
- Have your questions ready. Try not to hurl a cacophony of paranoid questions at them ("Do you think he'll be sad that I'm not walking him?"). Ask the questions that matter to you but are also relevant to the task at hand. Remember, the parent company has screened this person before hiring. Find them via word of mouth? Trust the person who referred them! They care and love their pup just as much as you do yours and wouldn't steer you in the wrong direction.
Some good questions to ask on your first meeting:
- How long have you been walking dogs?
- Do you have dogs yourself?
- (If applicable) How long have you been with your current company?
- What's your recommended route for walking my dog in this area?
- Do you offer solo walks, group walks, both?
- What rate do you charge for different walk times?
- Do you offer a walk report, send pictures, etc?
- Do you know canine first aid?
During your meeting:
- Invite them into your home. Home is where you and your dog feel most comfortable and happy. It's your turf.
- Notice how the walker behaves upon entering your home. If your dog is standoffish, does the walker try to put him at ease? If your dog is hyper and jumping, does the walker wait until he is in a calmer state to interact with him. Pay attention to whether the walker senses your dog's body language and behaviors.
- Have the treats and toys ready. To keep the first meeting from being too ruff (ha), let the walker give your pup one of his favorite treats after a polite sit, and encourage them to play with your dog and its toys.
- Introduce them to your LINK AKC Smart Collar and let them know how tracking their walks from your phone will be part of this process.
- Note the walker's attitude. This is, for all practical purposes, a job interview. You want a walker that is friendly, alert and respectful.
- Note your dog's behavior. Often, dogs will be a little shy around new people. Don't be concerned if it isn't love at first sight. If your dog seems happy and comfortable, SCORE! Your dog's instinct should be your instinct.
- Voice your concerns. You are going to have some worries when it comes to a stranger tending to your fur baby. Be honest with the walker. Don't be embarassed or shy. They've probably heard it all before.
- Be upfront about your dog's habits. If they have a tendancy to bark at dogs when they're on a leash, or maybe they aren't biggest fan of dogs much larger than them. To be fair to your new walker, they should know things like that beforehand.
At the end of the meeting:
- Take a stroll. Of course, your potential dog walker will be watching their P's and Q's, but you should be able to get a good sense of their style. Make sure your dog has on their LINK AKC collar, so you can review the app with them and what you'll be seeing during the walk.
- Walk a few steps behind. Let the go on ahead of you and see if your dog seems at ease and happy. Your dog will probably turn around some to see if you are there; note how the walker reacts to behaviors. If your dog is slow, is this person allowing for that? If your dog is jumping and pulling, is the walker being patient, implementing basic commands, or just "doing the job."
- Go home and reflect. You don't have to make a decision that day. Weigh the pros and cons of your meeting.
Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right walker for you and your dog, and that is perfectly fine. Don't be discouraged. You will find the right walker, and you'll be able to confidently track the progress of your pup and their new friend! Every dog has its day. And every dog has its walker, too!